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Baseball: ND wins Georgetown series

Andrew Gastelum and Chris Allen | Monday, March 28, 2011

Finally able to take to their home field for the first time all season, the Irish couldn’t have been happier — that is, until they won a three-game series against conference rival Georgetown to open Big East play.

The Irish (9-11-1, 2-1 Big East) snatched the first two games in the series by a combined total of two runs, while narrowly missing the sweep in Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 loss.

The Notre Dame bats got off to a fast start in Friday’s home opener, a 3-2 victory. The struggling Irish totaled eight hits, but it was senior right-hander Brian Dupra’s (2-2) stellar performance — no runs in 7.1 innings — that stole the show.

The scoring started early with sophomore second baseman Frank DeSico leading off the bottom of the first with a single to right field. The sophomore then proceeded to steal second and scored on a fielding error by Hoyas sophomore left fielder Paul Bello.

After Georgetown reliever Michael Seander walked two straight batters to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth of the 2-2 game, DeSico drew the game-winning walk to break Notre Dame’s four-game winless stretch.

The Irish were up 2-0 entering the seventh before a dropped fly ball by senior right fielder Herman Petzold put the leadoff man on base. The Hoyas (16-9, 1-2) then followed with consecutive extra-base hits — a RBI double by sophomore shortstop Mike Garza and a RBI triple by junior right fielder Rand Ravnaas — to tie the game at 2-2.

Petzold added a two-out RBI single in the sixth, displaying the timely hitting that Irish coach Mik Aoki hopes the team can continue.

“[The offense] is a work-in progress,” Aoki said. “It’s not where we would like it to be, but I know that the guys are working. Our offense just needs to take advantage of opportunities. Sometimes it’s just one timely hit that makes it all go.”

Offense was not much of a factor in Saturday afternoon’s 1-0 shutout win. Senior starter Cole Johnson (2-4) carried the Irish, only giving up five hits while striking out six in eight innings. Johnson has not received run support since the Irish’s 19-2 rout over Purdue Feb. 19 as the offense has only totaled seven runs in his last four starts combined.

Yet all the right-hander needed was the sole run — produced by a double by senior shortstop Mick Doyle in the fourth inning — as he masterfully pitched his way through the potent Georgetown offense on 106 pitches.

“I did a good job of competing and throwing strikes that led to a little contact but the defense played well,” Johnson said. “One run was enough. Today the pitching staff had to carry the offense but I guarantee somewhere down the road we will win a [high-scoring] game led by the offense.”

Freshman right-hander Dan Slania sealed the shutout with a seven-pitch scoreless ninth.

The Irish missed out on a sweep on Sunday, as a strike out by freshman center fielder Eric Jagielo with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Georgetown a 4-3 win. Senior right hander Todd Miller (2-2) took the loss despite turning in a gritty 6.1 innings pitched, giving up four earned runs after being struck by a first-inning line drive on his pitching hand.

“That was a huge gut-check outing for [Miller],” Aoki said. “He gets smoked by that line drive on his pitching hand in the first inning and he guts it through … He doesn’t say a word, he just goes out there and grinds, that was an absolute gut-check.”

The game was a back-and-forth affair, with a two-run single from Bello in the top of the seventh providing the go-ahead runs for Georgetown after Notre Dame had gone ahead 2-1 on a two-run home run from freshman first baseman Trey Mancini. Though the Irish put up a fight in their last at-bat, they could not get the timely hit to complete the sweep.

“They put four runs on the board with six hits. When it comes down to it, they got the timely hits,” Aoki said. “The guys just need to relax, I think we’re pressing a little bit in those situations.”

Notre Dame will send freshman left-hander Anthony McIver to the mound Monday in a makeup game against Illinois-Chicago at 5:35 p.m.